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Teach English in Japan

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Teach English in Japan

Japan, a land where ancient traditions seamlessly blend with cutting-edge technology, is an amazing location for people interested in teaching English abroad. With cosmopolitan cities, beautiful nature, and a rich history and culture, it's a great place to both visit and live. Not only that, the people are friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious and there are a lot of modern cities where you can get work. So, if you want to teach English in Japan, you'll find plenty of opportunities.

How to teach English in Japan

Japan has long employed English instructors from abroad and the demand for English teachers is high. English is taught to children from the age of 5 up until they finish high school, and millions of adults also take English classes. As a result, you can find work all year round in Japan, all over the country. There are 4 main types of English teaching jobs in Japan. Let's take a look at the options:

The JET Program

Run by the Japanese government since the late 1980s, the JET Program places Native English speakers as Assistant Language Teachers in public schools across Japan. It is one of the most surefire ways to get a job teaching English in Japan.

To be considered for the JET Program (JET stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching), you will need a bachelor's degree. You can expect to work a 35-hour week from Monday to Friday as an assistant language teacher, and the hiring process depends upon your home country. Many people consider the JET program the best route to teaching English in Japan due to its reputation and longevity. Plus, you'll get $27,000 per year and this increases each year that you remain on the program, not bad! More on English teacher salaries in Japan later.

Public schools

You can find jobs at public schools independently or go through organizations such as Interac. You can apply all year round, but it's worth bearing in mind that the peak hiring season is from January to April. Many Japanese public schools will require English teachers to have a TEFL or CELTA qualification and some teaching experience. However, this isn't always the case so make sure you check employer requirements carefully. A typical work week is 30 - 35 hours long.

Private language schools

Private language schools in Japan are always on the lookout for English teachers. You will need a bachelor's degree and TEFL certification to work at a private language school and hiring times are different for each company. In terms of work, you can expect to be located in a city and have long teaching hours. Sometimes this may include evenings and weekends depending on scheduling and student demand.

Private lessons

It's very common for English teachers to offer private lessons to people in Japan, and these are usually conducted one-on-one. You could find yourself teaching young learners, adult classes, and/or business English.

As you're teaching privately there are obviously no qualification requirements, but you owe it to your students to offer a good service. Therefore, you should still seriously consider getting TEFL certified before offering your services. Furthermore, it's important to make sure that your immigration status is legally compatible with any work that you do.

Teach English in Japan Salary

The salary for teaching English in Japan depends upon the type of job and your experience level but you can reasonably expect to earn between 200,000 to 340,000 Yen ($1,600 to $2,700 or £1,200 to £2,100) per month.

Naturally, if you have previous teaching experience and are TEFL qualified you can expect to earn considerably more and salaries can go as high as $5,000 per month.

The JET program currently pays 3.36 million Yen in the first year and this rises each year you are involved in it. This roughly translates into $27,000 or £20,800 for the year. This also lines up with the salaries in most Japanese public schools.

Private schools usually pay slightly less than this, but once again this varies depending on your experience and the location.

Finally, if you want to teach freelance you could charge anything between $15 - $60 per hour or £11 - £46 per hour if you're reading in England!

Requirements for teaching English in Japan

One of the main requirements for teaching English in Japan is that you have a bachelor's degree. It is unlikely that you will successfully teach English in Japan without a degree because you need one to obtain a visa.

In addition to this, a number of public schools and recruiters require a TEFL or CELTA certification, along with evidence of previous teaching experience. You'll also need to possess a clean criminal record.

If you don't yet hold a CELTA or TEFL certification, you can either take a TEFL course in Japan or complete your TEFL course online. After that, you'll be good to go.

You'll also need to be or have the level of a native English speaker. It helps significantly if you have citizenship from the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.

Fortunately, Japanese language skills are not required, although there is no doubt that some degree of proficiency can help you get a better job! Some programs and teaching jobs may even offer free Japanese lessons, so keep a lookout for these.

Teach English in Japan jobs

For those passionate about education and cultural exchange, the prospect of teaching English in Japan offers an immersive and transformative experience like no other. Let's start by taking a look at where you can teach:

Where can you teach?

If you're seeking an English teaching job in Japan, the best places to look are the biggest cities and major population centers of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. You will also find a good number of opportunities in Kyoto, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Sapporo, and Sendai. There are positions available all over the country and many of these are advertised online.


Think of Tokyo as the exciting heart of Japan, where bright lights and big dreams come together. From great job opportunities in international business to amazing cultural experiences, this city has it all. If you're considering teaching English abroad, Tokyo has a lot to offer. You'll be in high demand here as an English teacher as many of the major companies encourage their employees to take English lessons. Plus, with a population of over 14 million, there are a lot of schools in Tokyo that require their students to learn English.


Osaka proudly wears the crown of Japan's second-largest urban center and is a haven for street food aficionados. Unlike its sprawling counterpart, Tokyo, English teaching jobs in Osaka come with slightly less intense competition. While possessing prior teaching experience adds a layer of advantage, you should still be able to find work if you have just completed your TEFL certification.


With its bustling industrial and business landscape, Nagoya bridges the gap between Japan's time-honored traditions and its contemporary dynamism. It offers a unique backdrop for English educators looking for opportunities to teach abroad, and you'll find a growing demand for English language skills there. The competition for teaching opportunities here strikes a balance, with teaching jobs available for both newcomers and experienced teachers.

How to apply for English teaching jobs in Japan?

There are a few ways to apply to teach English in Japan. You can either look for jobs online, go through a recruiter or organization like Interac, or apply to the Jet program.

The first thing you should do is begin by researching the specific region or city in Japan where you envision teaching. Each area can have distinct cultural nuances and demand for English education and it's worth identifying where you'd like to teach. Acquiring a TEFL or TESOL certification is highly recommended.

With your credentials in hand, you can scour online job boards, recruitment websites, and the official portals of language schools and educational institutions in Japan. Prominent platforms like GaijinPot and Dave's ESL Cafe often host a plethora of teaching opportunities. If you apply through one of these sites, tailor your resume (CV) and cover letter for each application, emphasizing your relevant experience, passion for teaching, and adaptability to new environments.

Once you secure a teaching position, the subsequent steps involve obtaining a work visa and arranging travel and accommodations. Your employer or teaching program should assist with this process.

The JET program

To apply through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program you'll need to keep an eye on the official JET Program website for announcements and specific dates. The program typically opens its application window in the fall.

Once it opens for application your first step is to complete the JET Program application form, which is usually available for online submission. Provide accurate and detailed information about your education, work experience, and language skills. You'll also need to write a compelling Statement of Purpose (SOP) that highlights your motivation for participating in the program and your commitment to contributing positively to the educational environment.

Applying for the JET Program is a competitive process, so ensure your application stands out by highlighting your teaching experience, cultural awareness, and genuine passion for teaching abroad and Japanese culture.

You'll also need to provide references and copies of relevant supporting documents, such as a copy of your degree and proof of citizenship. If selected for the interview stage it will be conducted online, and if you're successful you'll then have the opportunity to indicate your preferred location in Japan.

What it's like to teach English in Japan

If you are considering teaching English in Japan, there are a few things you should know. Firstly, the country is home to over 127 million people, making it one of the most populous countries in the world. Secondly, Japanese schooling is highly structured and geared towards preparing students for college and a career. Consequently, many of the students who want to learn English are already familiar with grammar and vocabulary.

Japanese classroom culture

The typical Japanese student will often be quite modest and shy. This means that they can be reluctant to speak, and getting them to talk can be one of the challenges of teaching Japanese students.

On a positive note, this comes from their respectful and polite nature, and generally, Japanese students will be well-behaved making the classroom easier to manage. This makes them excellent students to teach, but of course, there are always exceptions to the rule!

How to dress

How you'll need to dress will depend upon where you teach, and some schools and private companies will require you to wear a suit or dress smartly. It's also important to be formal and punctual as this is a feature of Japanese society and workplace. If this isn't for you then you may want to consider teaching somewhere else!

General culture

During your time teaching English in Japan, you'll experience an entirely new culture with various social traditions. These may encompass gestures like bowing, the art of gift-giving, and nuances in offering compliments. Adapting to this might require a period of adjustment, and it's important to recognize that your willingness to engage and put forth genuine effort is valued.

The Japanese people also tend to be both formal and punctual when it comes to work or study, and it's important for you to live up to these standards as an ESL teacher. Doing so will help you earn the respect of your Japanese students.

Read more: 15 Things You Need to Know Before Teaching English in Japan

Cost of living in Japan

The cost of living in Japan varies depending on the city you live in. Living costs are high compared to other countries but this is compensated by higher salaries. Tokyo is the most expensive, while rural areas are cheaper. Some basic expenses you'll need to consider include rent, food, transportation, and utilities.

For accommodation, you can expect to pay around $800 (or £600) a month to live in the city center, whilst it will cost you around $500 (or £400) a month out of the center according to Numbeo. However, please note this is a rough estimate and will vary from city to city. Plus, you may need to be willing to live in shared accommodation. Tokyo will cost significantly more in each case.

The transportation system is very good, but it's worth getting a travel card to avoid expenses stacking up.

A meal out for 2 will typically cost between $40 - $50 or £30 to £40.

Life in Japan

Life in Japan for an English teacher is a captivating blend of cultural exploration, professional growth, and personal enrichment.

Living in Japan means being enveloped in a rich tapestry of traditions, festivals, and customs. From partaking in cherry blossom viewings (hanami) to savoring traditional cuisines like sushi and ramen, every day offers opportunities to engage with the local culture. Respect for customs such as bowing and taking off shoes indoors will become second nature.

While teaching English, you'll likely pick up some Japanese phrases, making everyday interactions more meaningful. Learning the language can deepen your connection with locals and enhance your overall experience.

Whether you're in a bustling city or a more tranquil town, you'll find yourself in a unique place. Outside the professional environment of Japan's cosmopolitan cities, there is beautiful nature. Spectacular mountains, semi-tropical islands, and unblemished countryside are just some of the draws for tourists and teachers alike.

While life in Japan as an English teacher might present its challenges, such as language barriers and adapting to cultural nuances, it's a journey that promises personal growth, lasting memories, and the chance to create a positive impact on your students and the community around you.

Teaching English in Japan is an opportunity that you don't want to miss and will remember for a lifetime.

Frequently asked questions

What qualifications do you need to teach English in Japan?

Most English teachers in Japan require bachelor's degrees with no criminal history. Typically teaching certifications like TEFL are preferred but aren't mandatory.

Can I teach English in Japan without a degree?

Do you need a degree to teach English in Japan? Yes is the short answer to this, because a bachelor's degree is one of the visa requirements. However, you can get around this with a working holiday visa if you're between the ages of 18-30.

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